Tag Archives: judging others

30 March, Monday – Judging others

30 March

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Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim. He had married Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, a woman of great beauty; and she was God-fearing, because her parents were worthy people and had instructed their daughter in the Law of Moses. Joakim was a very rich man, and had a garden attached to his house; the Jews would often visit him since he was held in greater respect than any other man. Two elderly men had been selected from the people that year to act as judges. Of such the Lord said, ‘Wickedness has come to Babylon through the elders and judges posing as guides to the people.’ These men were often at Joakim’s house, and all who were engaged in litigation used to come to them. At midday, when everyone had gone, Susanna used to take a walk in her husband’s garden. The two elders, who used to watch her every day as she came in to take her walk, gradually began to desire her. They threw reason aside, making no effort to turn their eyes to heaven, and forgetting its demands of virtue. So they waited for a favourable moment; and one day Susanna came as usual, accompanied only by two young maidservants. The day was hot and she wanted to bathe in the garden. There was no one about except the two elders, spying on her from their hiding place. She said to the servants, ‘Bring me some oil and balsam and shut the garden door while I bathe.’

Hardly were the servants gone than the two elders were there after her. ‘Look,’ they said ‘the garden door is shut, no one can see us. We want to have you, so give in and let us! Refuse, and we will both give evidence that a young man was with you and that was why you sent your maids away.’ Susanna sighed. ‘I am trapped,’ she said ‘whatever I do. If I agree, that means my death; if I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.’ Then she cried out as loud as she could. The two elders began shouting too, putting the blame on her, and one of them ran to open the garden door. The household, hearing the shouting in the garden, rushed out by the side entrance to see what was happening; once the elders had told their story the servants were thoroughly taken aback, since nothing of this sort had ever been said of Susanna.

Next day a meeting was held at the house of her husband Joakim. The two elders arrived, in their vindictiveness determined to have her put to death. They addressed the company: ‘Summon Susanna daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim.’ She was sent for, and came accompanied by her parents, her children and all her relations. All her own people were weeping, and so were all the others who saw her. The two elders stood up, with all the people round them, and laid their hands on the woman’s head. Tearfully she turned her eyes to heaven, her heart confident in God. The elders then spoke. ‘While we were walking by ourselves in the garden, this woman arrived with two servants. She shut the garden door and then dismissed the servants. A young man who had been hiding went over to her and they lay down together. From the end of the garden where we were, we saw this crime taking place and hurried towards them. Though we saw them together we were unable to catch the man: he was too strong for us; he opened the door and took to his heels. We did, however, catch this woman and ask her who the young man was. She refused to tell us. That is our evidence.’

Since they were elders of the people, and judges, the assembly took their word: Susanna was condemned to death. She cried out as loud as she could, ‘Eternal God, you know all secrets and everything before it happens; you know that they have given false evidence against me. And now have I to die, innocent as I am of everything their malice has invented against me?’

The Lord heard her cry and, as she was being led away to die, he roused the holy spirit residing in a young boy named Daniel who began to shout, ‘I am innocent of this woman’s death!’ At which all the people turned to him and asked, ‘What do you mean by these words?’ Standing in the middle of the crowd he replied, ‘Are you so stupid, sons of Israel, as to condemn a daughter of Israel unheard, and without troubling to find out the truth? Go back to the scene of the trial: these men have given false evidence against her.’

All the people hurried back, and the elders said to Daniel, ‘Come and sit with us and tell us what you mean, since God has given you the gifts that elders have.’ Daniel said, ‘Keep the men well apart from each other for I want to question them.’ When the men had been separated, Daniel had one of them brought to him. ‘You have grown old in wickedness,’ he said ‘and now the sins of your earlier days have overtaken you, you with your unjust judgements, your condemnation of the innocent, your acquittal of guilty men, when the Lord has said, “You must not put the innocent and the just to death.” Now then, since you saw her so clearly, tell me what tree you saw them lying under?’ He replied, ‘Under a mastic tree.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God has already received your sentence from him and will slash you in half.’ He dismissed the man, ordered the other to be brought and said to him, ‘Spawn of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has led your heart astray! This is how you have been behaving with the daughters of Israel and they were too frightened to resist; but here is a daughter of Judah who could not stomach your wickedness! Now then, tell me what tree you surprised them under?’ He replied, ‘Under a holm oak.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God is waiting, with a sword to drive home and split you, and destroy the pair of you.’

Then the whole assembly shouted, blessing God, the saviour of those who trust in him. And they turned on the two elders whom Daniel had convicted of false evidence out of their own mouths. As prescribed in the Law of Moses, they sentenced them to the same punishment as they had intended to inflict on their neighbour. They put them to death; the life of an innocent woman was spared that day.

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John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

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‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

It is quite amazing how people jump to conclusions very quickly. There are many videos circulating on the internet which remind us that what we see is not what the original intention was meant to be. The readings of today remind us of the need to not take everything at the surface level but that we need to probe deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It feels really good to be accusing another person of their wrongdoings. I will be the first to admit that I have done such an action before and that it is not the best of behaviour. What makes it worst is that the process starts from within my mind. There is an entire whirlwind of thoughts and words in my head which go about whenever I see a person. It could range from the behaviour they are exhibiting to the words which they are saying. The strangest thing is that I get very worried that these remarks are being said by others about me. In other words, I am worried about being judged!

Indeed, such is the nature of my life where I judge others and yet seek God’s forgiveness whenever I fear that I am being judged. The readings of today remind us that such actions have already been present since Biblical times. What matters is that we are always contrite and willing to turn to God immediately for forgiveness. However, what is even more important is when we ask God to allow us to probe deeper into why we are behaving in this manner. Only by bringing such behaviour to the light will we be able to discover the flawed nature of ourselves and submit ourselves to God for healing. Let us take this time to offer to God all our weaknesses and ask Him to heal us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the humility to submit all our flaws to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us despite our imperfections.

18 September, Wednesday – Modern Description

18 Sep 2019

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1 Timothy 3:14-16

At the moment of writing to you, I am hoping that I may be with you soon; but in case I should be delayed, I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family – that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed:

He was made visible in the flesh,
attested by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed to the pagans,
believed in by the world,
taken up in glory.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people:

‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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What description can I find for the men of this generation?

During my freshman year in university, I remember that students talked only to fellow students they were familiar with; probably to those people whom they already knew or who attended high school together. For me, my friends in high school went to a different university. As a shy person, I needed to make an extra effort to get to know new people. Eventually, I got close to them and became comfortable talking to them.

Indeed we were ‘talking machines’ in between classes. However, we kept quiet and listened attentively during class. Well, that was how we were taught back in high school and grade school. Everyone in my class was like that. So, for me, I thought it was a normal occurence.

Fast forward several years later. Now, I am teaching college students. I received a rude shock because classes are very noisy, even though the instructor has already entered the classroom. I have to control my judgmental thoughts regarding that kind of behaviour from the students. Most students (not all) speak rudely, even to the long-tenured faculty. Is that the way they talk to their parents or other older people? And when they talk to each other, they sound like they are shouting. They talk as if they are talking to someone who is 30 meters away from them. I began to question their upbringing. I thought I would be having an experience similar to my college days. But I reminded myself that this school is different from the schools I have attended. I must understand that my current students have different circumstances from me. I have no idea what kind of life they have had. And I must understand that we come from different backgrounds. I cannot expect them to be like who I thought they would be.

Similarly, we judge our brothers and sisters in faith. We judge those who we see regularly at mass, as well as those frequent absentees. We see those who are active in charity and those who seem indifferent. But what we cannot see is the state of their hearts. We cannot see how they feel nor how much love they have for our God.

We easily judge others when we should check ourselves first. What are our intentions when we pray? Do we go to mass out of love for God? Do we help others out of mercy and compassion?

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please guide our hearts that we may only see the good in others.  May we also share your mercy and compassion to them. Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Heavenly Father, thank You for everything that we have. Thank You for Your compassion and mercy. Thank you for giving us the wisdom to understand one another.  Amen.

13 September, Friday – Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes

Sep 13 – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

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1 Timothy 1:1-2,12-14

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

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Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told a parable to the disciples: ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.’

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Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly

Very recently, we had a new member join our community. She recently had her own conversion experience and was filled with enthusiasm and eagerness. She wants so much to be in a community to keep her faith strong. And she is so grateful to now be a full-fledged member, despite our very demanding schedule. I love watching her worship. Full of joy, it comes from the heart and it shows. She is like a breath of fresh air – only that the way she dresses doesn’t quite conform to our standard code of dressing. She is a beautiful woman and dresses very fashionably. Very alluring. Our leaders were quick to point this out and I was tasked to gently advise her to be less ‘distracting’; especially when we are ministering. Before I knew more about her, I was wondering what job she held that allowed her to dress this way.  Don’t get me wrong, her dressing is by no means risqué nor lewd. It’s just that in our Christian community, we all tend to be a little prim. In any case, I found out that she held a senior teaching profession in the medical industry.

Quite recently, Archbishop William also published a reflection called ‘Studs and Tattoos’ about superficial judgements on people. What matters most is not what they wear or look like, but what their heart is like. We should never judge a book by its cover.

We are all, at some point or other, guilty of judging people. I too had my own fair share of ‘lessons’. I am plagued by my own prejudices and judgements of people – especially when they don’t match up to my expectations. It may be how they perform a task, how they react to things, how quickly they respond to requests, or why someone doesn’t help someone else in need when they are perfectly able to. ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’.  Harper Lee in ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ said ‘you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.’   We never know the story or the circumstance that led the person to behave the way they did.

Jesus doesn’t fault us for having failings. But he invites me to look to my own blind spots first. If the just person falls seven times, how often do I fall?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, make me more aware of my inadequacies, so that I may become gentle in dealing with others.

Thanksgiving: God thank you for seeing each of us from the inside. Thank you for seeing us with a generous and compassionate gaze. Thank you for not despising or condemning us for our shortcomings and failings. Lord, today make us gaze at annoying people as kindly as you do.

16 October, Tuesday – The Whole Package

16 October – Memorial for St. Hedwig, Religious; Memorial for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin

Hedwig (1174–1243) was the daughter of the Duke of Croatia, and aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She married Prince Henry I of Silesia and Poland in 1186 at the age of 12, and became the mother of seven. She cared for the sick both personally and by founding hospitals. Upon her husband’s death, she gave away her fortune and entered the monastery at Trebnitz.

– Patron Saint Index

Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690) was healed from a crippling disorder by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, which prompted her to give her life to God. After receiving a vision of Christ fresh from the Scourging, she was moved to join the Order of the Visitation by Paray-le-Monial in 1671.

She received a revelation from our Lord in 1675, which included 12 promises to her and to those who practiced a true devotion to His Sacred Heart, whose crown of thorns represent his sacrifices. The devotion encountered violent opposition, especially in Jansenist areas, but has become widespread and popular.

The Twelve Promise of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary for those devoted to His Sacred Heart are:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their families.
  3. I will console them in all their troubles.
  4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
  5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
  6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
  9. I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honoured.
  10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
  12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under any displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 5:1-6

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. It is I, Paul, who tell you this: if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all. With all solemnity I repeat my warning: Everyone who accepts circumcision is obliged to keep the whole Law. But if you do look to the Law to make you justified, then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace. Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for those rewards that righteousness hopes for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

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Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

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Did not he who make the outside make the inside too?

I once saw a T-shirt that had the following slogan printed on it, ‘You got to take the whole package, including the fat and the waste.” It served to remind me that we must always treat people with true sincerity and view them as a person and not judge them on the externals. Failure to do so will render us to a harsh judgement by God as we read in today’s Gospel.

Jesus was upset at the strict adherence to the religious codes that the Pharisees had when it came to the washing of their hands before meals whilst not bothering about showing mercy to those in need. We might be quick to judge that the Pharisees were true hypocrites but I ask that we take a step back and look at ourselves. We often engage in such behaviour without us knowing it or worst, we think we are actually correct when we try to point out the mistakes of other people.

The context that we correct these people is important; we must not focus on the external signs but rather consider the reasons why we get so upset at such behaviour. Perhaps we do so because we want to cover up a certain inadequacy on our part? I pray that we will always bite our tongue before we seek to correct another person in order for us to realize that he is also another human being.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you help us to remember to live with our brothers and sisters in charity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who point out our faults.

25 June, Monday – A Truly Christian Attitude

25 June

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2 Kings 17:5-8,13-15,18

The king of Assyria invaded the whole country and, coming to Samaria, laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

This happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed for them.

And yet through all the prophets and all the seers, the Lord had given Israel and Judah this warning, ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my laws in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen, they were more stubborn than their ancestors had been who had no faith in the Lord their God. They despised his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them. They pursued emptiness, and themselves became empty through copying the nations round them although the Lord had ordered them not to act as they did. For this, the Lord was enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. There was none left but the tribe of Judah only.

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Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’

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“The judgements you give are the judgements you will get…”

Today’s Gospel shows our Lord Jesus warning His disciples against judging others, about how one would be similarly judged as a consequence.

This has always been my struggle; I tend to have (fleeting) judgmental thoughts as I go about my day. Very often, I catch myself judging people and I have to spend some time rationalising myself out of such thoughts. I realise, over years of reflecting on this Gospel passage, that the essence of this teaching is not that we hold back from voicing our thoughts, but that we not have them in the first place.

In recent months, I have been travelling to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam very regularly, and I have now realised that my Father God may have sent me there to learn an important lesson.

Those of us who are familiar with Vietnam will share about the traffic situation there. The vehicles there follow a lax traffic code; anything goes as long as you make sure that others can see you doing it. I remember a particular day when I took a ride on a motorcycle as a pillion rider. That fateful day, I remember riding against traffic, mounting curbs along the way and travelling against the direction of one-way streets. It was terrifying. Interestingly though, while there was gentle chiding by passersby, no one got really upset nor angry, despite the less-than-responsible actions of my rider.

Over my time in Vietnam, I have never seen a traffic situation where people get angry. When speaking with a Vietnamese friend, he explained that people don’t get angry because they are always expecting the others to do the unexpected, often riding slowly so as to be prepared to take defensive measures. Their attitude is that they can always take actions to avoid any potential accident. Even if such incidents were to take place, the people just move on unaffected.

As Christians, we should take the same attitude; rather than looking for and being critical about any infringements by others, we should instead work on ourselves and prepare ourselves for any potential challenges in our Christian journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that in our faith journey, we will learn to be inward-looking when it comes to our failings. May we learn not to be on the lookout for weaknesses in others, choosing to understand that everyone has their own backstory in every situation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Your teaching us to not judge others, Lord Jesus. We praise and thank You for also showing us how to do this in our lives.

16 March, Friday – Passing Judgment

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

16 March

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

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John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

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…with their misguided reasoning

Most of us like to pigeonhole people and categorise them as being of a certain ‘kind’ or ‘type of character’. Then, when we encounter someone who doesn’t ‘fit the bill’ or conform to a stereotype in our minds, we either dismiss their views and/or keep them out of our circle of friends or maintain our distance.

Today’s readings smack of mistrust and judgment, values that I find prevalent in many organisations and even in church ministry (sad, but true). What I find unacceptable is how a group of ‘leaders’ (supposedly), can pass judgement and spread gossip about younger, newer members to the fold without even getting to know them or giving them a fair shake. It certainly reminds me of the Israelites who were so sceptical about Jesus that they even wished him dead.

Just this past weekend, I met up with a brother in Christ who spent considerable time with me and shared about his life experiences since we last met. The encounter was profound and certainly opened my mind up to the many possibilities that life has to offer. I had been going through a trying time at work and wanted to hear his perspective. He too lamented on how companies/organisations perpetuate unhealthy values and how that affects staff morale and contributes to stress at the workplace.

He spoke about how the word ‘company’ originated from the Latin ‘companio’ – meaning ‘one who breaks bread with you’. If you think about it, who do we share meals with? Those who we deem ‘worthy’ of our companionship and time, those who mean something to us. So how is it that companies eschew politics and backbiting? How can ministry members not encourage and support but, instead, tear others down with malicious gossip and innuendo?

Brothers and sisters, as we approach our Jerusalem, let us be more aware of our words and actions towards others. Let us appreciate how a simple word can destroy, rather than affirm. And how it is never up to us to pass judgment on another fellow human being. For who are we to condemn when we ourselves are not ‘perfect’ nor devoid of sin?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you give us the wisdom to appreciate the weaknesses of those around us and fill us with a heart that is open to guiding and lifting up those who need affirmation.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, O Holy Spirit, for your gift of counsel.

22 January, Monday – Caught up in the moment

22 Jan – Memorial of Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr

Friend of Saint Valerius of Saragossa in Spain, and served as his deacon. Imprisoned and tortured in Valencia, Spain for his faith during the persecutions of Diocletian; part of his time was spent being burned on a gridiron. While in prison, he converted his jailer. Was finally offered release if he would give up the scripture texts for burning, but he refused. Martyr. Acts written by the poet Prudentius.

– Patron Saint Index

 

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2 Samuel 5:1-7,10

All the tribes of Israel then came to David at Hebron. ‘Look’ they said ‘we are your own flesh and blood. In days past when Saul was our king, it was you who led Israel in all their exploits; and the Lord said to you, “You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.”’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years. He reigned in Hebron over Judah for seven years and six months; then he reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

David and his men marched on Jerusalem against the Jebusites living there. These said to David, ‘You will not get in here. The blind and the lame will hold you off. (That is to say: David will never get in here.) But David captured the fortress of Zion, that is, the Citadel of David.

David grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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But let anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness

Strong opinions are dangerous. Strong opinions expressed too strongly push us to a place we find impossible to back down from. Caught up in the moment, we stake more and more on being right – our reputations are suddenly up for debate.

In today’s Scripture reading, the Jewish scribes viciously ‘defend their end zone’ with the collective weight of their knowledge and their position as religious elders of their time. Much is at stake here. Their whole self-worth is tied up in being right. In the heat of an argument, with tempers flaring, it is entirely possible that perhaps they weren’t thinking straight and let their pride do the talking for them. They talked themselves to a place they couldn’t back down from, a place where they undermined themselves and inadvertently, blasphemed against the work of the Holy Spirit. Did they knowingly do it? Maybe, but that’s what happens when reason takes flight to pride and passion. We get careless and say things we regret.

I’ve often wondered about the Unforgivable Sin. What if I’ve committed it out of carelessness? We’ve all been in heated arguments before. “The tongue… is in itself a whole world of evil. It infects the whole being and sets fire to our world with the very fire of hell… nobody can control the tongue. It is an untiring whip, full of deadly poison. We use it to bless God, our Father, and also to curse those made in God’s likeness.” (James 3: 6-9). Have I, like the Jewish scribes, undermined the Spirit’s work unwittingly, when in a moment of anger and carelessness, I criticized a brother in Christ?

For we all carry the Holy Spirit within us, the Spirit which inspires us to do His deeds. When I judge someone, am I also judging the Holy Spirit and in so doing, committing the Unpardonable Sin? Food for thought as we go about this week.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the strength to restrain ourselves, when tempers flare and arguments become too heated, lest we say something we regret.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who guides each of our actions. We pray for the wisdom to always be able to listen and practise restraint, despite the noise of our own passions.

21 November, Tuesday – Open To God’s Love

Nov 21 – Memorial for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we commemorate the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the seventh century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but re-established by Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable).

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Maccabees 6:18-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig’s flesh. But he, resolving to die with honour rather than to live disgraced, went to the block of his own accord, spitting the stuff out, the plain duty of anyone with the courage to reject what it is not lawful to taste, even from a natural tenderness for his own life. Those in charge of the impious banquet, because of their long-standing friendship with him, took him aside and privately urged him to have meat brought of a kind he could properly use, prepared by himself, and only pretend to eat the portions of sacrificial meat as prescribed by the king; this action would enable him to escape death, by availing himself of an act of kindness prompted by their long friendship. But having taken a noble decision worthy of his years and the dignity of his great age and the well earned distinction of his grey hairs, worthy too of his impeccable conduct from boyhood, and above all of the holy legislation established by God himself, he publicly stated his convictions, telling them to send him at once to Hades. ‘Such pretence’ he said ‘does not square with our time of life; many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners’ way of life, and because I had played this part for the sake of a paltry brief spell of life might themselves be led astray on my account; I should only bring defilement and disgrace on my old age. Even though for the moment I avoid execution by man, I can never, living or dead, elude the grasp of the Almighty. Therefore if I am man enough to quit this life here and now I shall prove myself worthy of my old age, and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable and holy laws.’

With these words he went straight to the block. His escorts, so recently well disposed towards him, turned against him after this declaration, which they regarded as sheer madness. Just before he died under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, ‘The Lord whose knowledge is holy sees clearly that, though I might have escaped death, whatever agonies of body I now endure under this bludgeoning, in my soul I am glad to suffer, because of the awe which he inspires in me.’

This was how he died, leaving his death as an example of nobility and a record of virtue not only for the young but for the great majority of the nation.

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Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

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“Today salvation has come to this house”

Growing up in a poor family, I had often wondered how it felt to have money to spend, to actually join my schoolmates on their regular outings. It was really tough-going, and I really felt excluded and not part of the ‘in’ group.

One day, however, I found S$50 in the bathroom when I was showering. While I knew it was wrong, the temptation was much too great to resist; I stole the money. Soon after, my grandaunt realized that she had somehow misplaced the money. She was upset, and my shame prevented me from owning up.

Soon after, I could not take the constant nagging of my conscience and finally owned up. I remember confessing my crime to my grandaunt and finally returned the money to her. I promised never to do it again and thankfully was forgiven for my transgression.

When I read the account of Zacchaeus wanting to meet with Jesus and finally proposing to give half his property to the poor and offering to make restitution to anyone he may have cheated by returning them four times the amount, I imagined myself in that position.

Over time, however, the same passage has spoken to me in a different way.

During the time of Jesus, tax collectors were thought to be corrupted, often collecting amounts in excess of the actual amounts they were required to collect and pocketing the difference. It was a view held by everyone.

I wonder if Zacchaeus was as corrupted as everyone thought he was. Perhaps his offer of restitution was his way of showing that he was open to scrutiny. We never know for sure. What this taught me is that we have a tendency of judging people, without actually knowing what the truth is. Zacchaeus may well have been cheating people, but without knowing the facts, we are unable to judge. Zacchaeus’ narrative reinforces this message to me.

Brothers and sisters, may we remember to always be open to scrutiny and to never judge others.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always be open to our God, to be open to His forgiveness. Help us to be willing to change.

Thanksgiving: We thank You Jesus, for showing us that no matter what happens, You are open to accepting and loving us.

26 June, Monday – Do Not Judge

26 June 2017

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Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you:

I will curse those who slight you.

All the tribes of the earth

shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had amassed and the people they had acquired in Haran. They set off for the land of Canaan, and arrived there.

Abram passed through the land as far as Shechem’s holy place, the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘It is to your descendants that I will give this land.’ So Abram built there an altar for the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the mountainous district east of Bethel, where he pitched his tent, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. Then Abram made his way stage by stage to the Negeb.

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Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’

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“Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

This is a passage that many of us would be struggling with. Even as I was praying with the scriptures, my heart was already telling me that some people in my life should be reading this passage for they are not aware of their failings.

I try my very best to always be as aware as possible because it is never my intention to cause anyone any hurt or harm. But yet, it is usually during my reflection after an event that makes me realise the areas I did wrongly. I want the best for others, I want them to experience Christ, yet sometimes all that excitement and passion leads to me being impatient, resulting in frustration, disappointment and hurt, whether with myself or others. I am a perfectionist and most of the time, when I feel I can do better, I’ll try to get myself involved so that hopefully, I can help others be more aware.

But the real question is how aware am I actually? I don’t think it’s a lot to do with judging but more how much do we love the other? Do we love the other such that we will bring them up versus put them down, be patient and understanding with them versus force upon them compliance, encourage versus criticise?

I guess to a large extent, it is also about our pride. That I can’t have others being better than me thus I need to put people down so that I may be above. I feel I am able to manage my pride but what still frustrates me is when someone obviously cannot make it, but doesn’t feel that anything is wrong. And in order that I may not be like one towards others, I always remember to ask for feedback and constructive criticism in order that I may be aware of the log in my eye and hopefully be able to remove it.

I guess the challenge really is to see Christ in others. To look with love. There will always be logs and splinters, but I believe there will also always be love. Where there is love, there is God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will see not with the eyes of judgment but that of love. That we may always look to you, from your example, where you say “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. And where you still gave your life for us. Help us to continue to love as you did. Help us to be like you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your wisdom and for the challenges in our lives. Thank you for always providing us with that second chance. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for loving us always.